Acme Jazz Garage — Ascending?

I seldom write about my own projects here, but thought I’d throw out a quick note about the CD recently released by my band, Acme Jazz Garage, on my Solar Grooves label.

relix review

Acme Jazz Garage is gaining momentum via national jazz-radio airplay, and good reviews in magazines and newspapers.

A few updates:

RADIO :

  • Our CD is in its fifth week of airplay on jazz stations across the US (check its progress on the JazzWeek chart).
  • It has aired on Tampa’s WUSF and WMNF; WFCF in St. Augustine, FL; KEWU in Cheney/Spokane, WA; WCLK in Atlanta, Ga.; WAER in Syracuse, NY; KSDS in San Diego, CA; Jazz From Gallery 41 in Berkeley, CA; WTJU in Charlottesville, Va.; WSHA in Raleigh, NC; WWSP in Stephens Point, WI; KRTU in San Antonio, TX; KCCK in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and KRFC in Fort Collins, CO, among other stations.

PRESS:

  •   Relix magazine critic Wayan Zoey calls the CD “a solid collection of revivalist funk and swing … influences are rooted in ’70s fusion, and the various contemporary pop styles that surrounded it … a much more enjoyable experience than your average ‘trad jazz’ album … a capable excursion through one of the most playful eras of America’s cultural history.”
  • Creative Loafing/Tampa just gave us a four-star review: “The 10-track set is not only fun but a rather excellent demonstration of what four vet musicians can accomplish with some quality time in the studio and a little help from their friends.”
  • Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and a contributor to NPR, says the CD “mixes the best bits of the Meters, Santana, Robben Ford, Grover Washington, Anita O’Day, Joe Sample, Roy Ayers and Marcus Miller into a refreshingly breezy sound.”
  • “Some funky R&B, and straight-ahead jazz, and it coule be one of the outstanding local releases of 2016,” says Randy Wind, program director at WMNF in Tampa.
  • ” ‘Resonance’ immediately made me think of Steely Dan,” says Louis Maistros, New Orleans singer/songwriter and acclaimed novelist. “And (I hear) hints of the Crusaders. The rest felt like its own thing. This is really a hot little combo. Mission accomplished. It’s a damn fine record. Bravo!”

Acme Jazz Garage, the band’s debut full-length set of original compositions, features an eclectic mix of original jazz compositions played by the core quartet (Matt Swenson, guitar; Bryan Lewis, keys; Tim Diehl, drums; me on bass) plus special guests.

We were joined by conga master Gumbi Ortiz; who tours with Al Di Meola; singer Whitney James; saxophonists Jeremy Powell (Arturo O’Farrell Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra), Rick Runion and Austin Vickrey; vibraphonist Sam Koppelman; and trumpeter Ron Wilder. The music was recorded and engineered by John Stephan at his Springs Theatre studio in Tampa, and mixed in L.A. by Ruairi O’Flaherty.

The tracks:

^  “Mongo Strut” (Booth) — Latin-edged funk spiked with congas

^ “Resonance” (Lewis) — multipart contemporary fusion (some folks hear Steely Dan)

^ “Sandprints” (Booth) — a 5/4 piece inspired by Wayne Shorter, featuring Powell on soprano sax

^  “Last Call” (Booth) — a retro vocal tune (Manhattan-romance theme) with vocals, trumpet and vibes

^  “Acmefied” (Booth) — straight-up jazz funk

^  “Zag” (Booth) — straightahead, swinging jazz with two tenor saxes (Vickrey and Runion) and vibraphone

^  “Mr. G.P.” (Booth) — New Orleans-style R&B named for Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., with a tpt-tenor-bari horn section

^  “Rubberman” (Booth) — jammy-leaning jazz with flute (Vickrey) and tenor (Runion)

^ A bluesy version of “America the Beautiful” (arr. by Lewis) — think Ray Charles; perfect for airplay on the July 4 weekend.

To get your very own copy of the CD, as a physical disc or download, click here

For more information on the band, visit us on Facebook; go to our web site; or stop by Solar Grooves. Twitter: @acmejazzgarage

 

 

What Makes For Good Jazz Radio? Curated Programming

Larry Appelbaum, longtime jazz announcer at WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C., hits the nail on the head when he talks about the how and why of good jazz radio.

This comment is particularly cogent, I think: “It’s also worth noting that consumers these days have many more choices for music sources besides radio. The reason people support my program and the idea of public radio in general is the opportunity for curated programming. The marketplace is flooded with product and from the feedback I receive, people are seeking an informed opinion about what is worth checking out. If you can provide some context for understanding the music, curious people will keep coming back.”

In other words, give listeners something appealing that they won’t find anywhere else.

He also hits the nail on the head regarding what jazz DJs ought not to do. You know, no excessive gabbing at the expense of spinning the tunes.

“Of course you have to watch the ratio of talk to music and know when to shut up and play more music,” he said, in an interview with Aidan Levy for the JazzTimes Education Guide, published in November. “If you do talk about music, it helps if you have something to say. Remember, it’s about the music, not you.

Check out the entire interview, posted on Rosenbaum’s blog, here.

 

 

Child of the Sun Music Festival: Skipping a Year; How Can Music Fests Survive?

What does it take for a jazz festival, or a more eclectic music festival, to survive, and thrive?

For starters, a strong vision (what’s this fest’s focus?), strong funding (civic, corporate, otherwise), a strong promotional effort (get the message out to the right people, by any means necessary) and a strong commitment to the fest’s immediate viability and long-term survival.

The Child of the Sun Jazz Festival in Lakeland once boasted some of that. Remember the days when the late Nat Adderley (below), legendary trumpeter and longtime artist in residence at Florida Southern College, brought all of his top-shelf NYC bandmates, and some of their associates, to play the fest at FSC?

Nat adderley

Thankfully, I had several opportunities to play my hometown’s fest, with some bands under my name, as well as my Acme Jazz Garage and Trio Vibe groups, and the FSC faculty jazz group (I wasn’t a faculty member but they invited me anyway).

FSC music prof Larry Burke did a great job organizing the fest, and making it a first class event. It was a feather in the cap for the college, a free admission fest offering folks the chance to see world-class jazz artists as well as good local players. The Child of the Sun Fest was unique for the area, as there was (and still is) nothing else like it in Lakeland or Polk County.

Jazz fans all over the region, and some from around the state, showed up to take in the music, which was played on an elevated stage in a beautiful setting on a lawn in front of the library on the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus. Sunny days turned into cool nights, and attendees often brought along their own picnics.

The crowds would have been larger, I think, had the college offered more appreciation and more support for a great event, right in front of FSC’s eyes. Maybe the powers-that-be didn’t get it? The promotional effort was less than robust, to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times Bob Seymour, the jazz director at WUSF (who sometimes attended the fest and talked about it on air) asked me why he hadn’t heard anything yet about any given year’s event — the lineup or even the date.

Sadly, after Nat passed away, FSC’s support for the fest began to dwindle.

If I recall correctly, the fest didn’t happen for a couple of years. But then it was revived in 2011, under the auspices of the Lakeland Rotary Club. The organization did a nice job with the fest at the start, but then began tinkering with the programming, foregoing national artists, taking “jazz” out of the title and making it the Child of the Sun Music Festival and 5K Run.

This year, the fest was scheduled to take place on April 2, and you can still find it listed online.

But earlier this week, organizers announced that the fest is going on hiatus, taking “a pause” for a year because the sponsoring organization wants to put its efforts into a “bigger” fundraising opportunity, a concert at Joker Marchant Stadium with Three Dog Night and America, or what’s left of those bands. Does it need to be said that rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia bands are a dime a dozen, and you can see those types of shows anywhere, anytime? Does it need to be added that, if big money comes in from the oldies concert, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to bring back the smaller event?

Fest organizers have announced that they’re just taking a year off. But anyone who knows anything about festivals (music or otherwise) knows that dropping the ball for a year absolutely destroys the forward momentum of a fest. You can’t do it halfway.

So … maybe it’s not fair to blame the sponsoring group. They have their own goals, and if reaching those goals requires another type of an event, more of a sure-fire money making opportunity, then, you know, more power to them. The Lakeland Rotary Club, and Rotary clubs throughout Lakeland, and elsewhere, typically support plenty of worthwhile, civic-minded causes.

Music festival management isn’t for everyone. Tough job. But if Rotary is serious about putting on a good music festival then, you know, make a real commitment to it.

Bring in some musicians and/or other music folks to advise on the programming, secure some sponsorship dollars from the City of Lakeland and/or major companies or wealthy individuals based in the area, and promote the heck out of the thing. If you build it properly, they will come.

(I have loads of experience attending and covering music festivals around the world, and working in communications, so I’d happily provide input and advice, whether it comes to the programming or the PR/media side).

If not, then … there’s an opening for other organizations or individuals to make it happen. Any takers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Hail the Jazz DJs, and Saluting WUSF and WMNF

It’s National Disc Jockey Day

So let’s give props to all the great, hard-working, well-informed radio DJs out there, and the significant role they play in getting good music to the public.

In particular, I want to say thanks to Bob Seymour, longtime jazz guru at WUSF, 89.7 FM in Tampa.

Bob Seymour

I remember first listening to Bob during my high-school days in nearby Lakeland. Bob and Vic Hall and the others provided a great on-air jazz education. Then, and now, Bob and Co. served as a sort of jazz clearinghouse of the airwaves, alerting everyone in the Tampa Bay area to all of the local worthwhile concerts.

Bob, too, always has made a point of supporting the scene with his presence at concerts by national artists as well as gigs featuring local musicians (including my own bands).

I felt privileged to take a turn at the WUSF mic in the late ’90s, when I did some jazz announcing for a few years. And I’ve had the chance to get to know Bob and his wife Marian via hanging out together at local jazz shows, festivals at home (Clearwater Jazz Holiday) and abroad (Montreal Jazz Fest), and at jazz conferences (the old IAJE gatherings).

So …

KUDOS to Bob and all the other current WUSF jazz DJs, including Mike Cornette, Whitney James, Mark Feinman, and Richard Jimenez.

KUDOS to Randy Wind and all the great on-air talent at WMNF, 88.5 FM, in Tampa, including Scott Hopkins, Thomas Dickens, Ray Villadonga, Cheryl Mogul, Cameron Dilley, Ronny Elliott, Rev Billy C. Wirtz, Jeff Stewart, Speedy Gonzalez, Lee Courtney, Cricket Larson, Ed Greene, and Peter Tush.

Greatly appreciate all the support the folks at WMNF and WUSF give to local music, too, as they’ve played recordings I’ve done with Acme Jazz Garage, Trio Vibe, Ghetto Love Sugar, The Irritable Tribe of Poets, Greenwich Blue, the “Monk in the Sun” CD, and other projects.

(And extra thanks to WMNF for asking my bands, including Acme Jazz Garage, Ghetto Love Sugar, and Trio Vibe, to perform at special station-sponsored events, including the Tropical Heatwave and concerts at Skipper’s Smokehouse and the New World Brewery).

I’ll also give a shout-out to some of the nationally syndicated shows that provide hours of listening pleasure, including Christian McBride‘s new “Jazz Night in America” on NPR and the shows hosted by Mark Ruffin, Eulis Cathey, Dermot Hussey, and Les Davis on Sirius XM’s “Real Jazz” channel.

As the National Day Calendar explains, “National Disc Jockey Day is celebrated in remembrance of the death of Albert James Freed.  Freed, also known as Moondog, was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s.  He is credited with introducing the term ‘ rock ‘n’ roll’ to the world. Within our research we were unable to find the creator of National Disc Jockey Day.” More information

Stay tuned … to your local jazz DJ. Let them know you care.

 

Newport 1959: Listen Now!

The Newport Jazz Festival in 1959: The “New Testament” Count Basie Band. Thelonious Monk (in photo). Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, with Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley. Dizzy Gillespie. The Ahmad Jamal Trio. The Horace Silver Quintet. Dizzy Gillespie. The Jimmy Smith Trio. The Oscar Peterson Trio.

Now THAT was a real, artistically significant jazz festival, unlike too many of the overtly commercial events masquerading as jazz fests around my home state in recent years.

Thanks to NPR music,  I just came across fantastic audio from the fest – just listening to Atomic Basie playing “The Deacon,” spiked with a gritty, rambunctious solo by plunger-mute trombone wizard Al Grey. mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=122007665&m=122004714

A sampler of recordings from the fest is available here via NPR music, which offers five tracks — Basie, Blakey, Jamal,  Silver, Dakota Staton — discussed by New York Times critic Ben Ratliff and jazz announcer Josh Jackson on the latter’s Dec. 30 edition of “The Checkout” show on WBGO.

Amazingly enough, 27 sets from the festival can be heard online at Wolfgang’s Vault. The best part: There’s absolutely no admission charge.

The vault isn’t just about jazz. It also offers free-admission access to tons of great concerts by everyone from The Allman Brothers (Hollywood Bowl, Aug. 6, 1972) to Bob Marley (London, 1975) to Neil Young (Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, 1975).

How’d I not know about this great resource?

Tampa Jazz Notes 2.11.09

Valentine’s Day goes with jazz like Christmas goes with brass choirs, and I’m not just saying that because “My Funny Valentine” was the song I asked the band to play for the first dance at my wedding.

That was way back in 1993, and my friend and sometime bandmate Joe Teston, on tenor sax, sat in with the trio that I hired for the occasion — guitarist Ted Shumate, bassist Michael Ross and percussionist extraordinaire Gumbi Ortiz.

The wedding must have “worked,” as I’m still married. The guys in the wedding party, or in attendance, were among my bandmates of that period or shortly later — I played with Joe in Greenwich Blue, with Joe and guitarist Domenick Ginex in Bop City, and with Dom and guitarist Bryan Zink in Liz Back on Booze.

But I digress. Several special shows, jazz and jazzy, are slated for Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, in the Tampa Bay area.

Among those are:

  • The Blind Boys of Alabama, the great long-running gospel group, whose Down in New Orleans CD was one of last year’s finest. Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m. The Gary Brown Band opens this show, presented by WMNF, 88.5 FM, and tickets are $25.

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“God’s Trombones,” a celebration of the work of major African American writer James Weldon Johnson, a Florida native, is slated for Monday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at The Studio@620 in St. Petersburg.

Admission is free, but donations of canned goods, to support area food banks, are accepted.

Ex-Ellington trombonist Buster Cooper will participate in the program, which honors Black History Month and is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP (Johnson was exec secretary from 1920 to 1930).

Here’s what’s on tap for the event, according to the venue’s web site:

  • Individual readings of the volume’s poems by local actors, poets, and ministers: Bob Devin Jones, Studio@620; Leroy Mitchell, actor, Johnson performer; Louis Murphy, minister; John Conlon, actor; Aleshea Harris, actor, poet; Sharon Scott, actor; Vikki Gaskin-Butler, professor, minister.
  • Trombone/musical interludes by Buster Cooper.
  • Visual renderings along the walls of the Aaron Douglas images that accompany the first (1927) edition of Johnson’s text .
  • Discussion period/question-and-answer session following the performance with Humanities scholar Dr. Julie Buckner Armstrong, USFSP.

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Also just ahead on the Tampa Bay area jazz calendar:

  • Guitarist Nate Najar’s Trio (with ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb) will be   joined by singer and banjo player Cynthia Sayer (of Woody Allen’s band), at the Palladium Theater, Thursday, Feb. 19, in the venue’s Side Door Jazz series. Show is at 7:30 p.m., and admission is $20. 
  • Kenny Walker, the busy area bassist (Helios Jazz Orchestra, Gumbi Ortiz) and monthly jazz host on WMNF, 88.5 FM, on Saturday, Feb. 21 will give a lecture on jazz history at the St. Petersburg Museum of History. His talk will be part of the museum’s fourth annual African American Author lecture series, from 2 to 4 p.m.



Support Jazz Radio in Tampa: WMNF Pledge Drive, and WUSF

Jimmy Lyons and the crew at the Charles Vann Memorial Jazz Party, which airs Saturdays from 6 to 9 on WMNF, 88.5 FM, have consistently been supportive of good jazz and local jazz musicians.

Listeners interested in keeping that show, and other jazz programs, alive on WMNF can help the cause by making pledges of financial support tonight.

Here’s Jimmy’s note on the pledge drive:

I know it is a tough time financially for our country & many of our jazz listeners. If you can afford any amount from $10 to $1,000 we would really appreciate it. WMNF measures call volume and total dollars pledged when determining support for a show. I am confident we can show our new station manager, Jim Bennett, that jazz fans can stick together even in tough times. Please call during the show at 813-238-8001 or 813-239-9663. Please forward this email to anyone you know that wants to keep jazz & the jazz parking lot parties alive on the radio. If you will not be able to hear the show call me at 813-728-7084 and I will make sure your pledge gets counted for jazz. Thank you for your jazz support.

The lineup of jazz on WMNF:

Meanwhile, jazz is going strong — 50 hours a week — over at WUSF, 89.7 FM. Several years ago I logged time there as an overnight DJ and occasional fill-in for Bob Seymour, that station’s longtime jazz programmer and announcer. Bob’s also a huge supporter of local musicians and local jazz events.

Jazz is heard on WUSF on Sunday through Thursday nights from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Want to donate to support jazz on WUSF? Click here.

I owe a debt of gratitude to both stations, and to Jimmy and Bob personally, for the airplay and other support they’ve given to my own musical projects and recordings over the years, including Monk in the Sun and the Greenwich Blue CD When Our Time Comes.

Bob and Jimmy, too, have gone out of their way to bring great national artists to the area, through their work with the Tampa Jazz Club. The latest event: Legendary saxophone/trumpeter Ira Sullivan, this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Springs Theatre. Here’s more info that show.